Florida motorists who do not move out of the path of an emergency vehicle could be responsible for an accident or slow the response time of the emergency vehicle, which may result in fatalities.
The response time of an emergency vehicle is crucial. In less than five minutes, a fire could spread throughout a home, or brain damage can occur in an injured or ill person.
Yielding to Emergency Vehicles Prevents Auto Accidents
The need for Florida drivers to be aware of emergency vehicles was brought to light on January 3, 2008 when a rookie Jacksonville firefighter almost lost his life on the way to a call. The rookie firefighter survived, but will have life-long effects from the accident.
Four others were sent to the hospital when a semi-truck collided with a fire engine. The Florida Highway Patrol said that both drivers could have prevented the accident. The semi-truck driver sped into the intersection in order to beat the fire engine, while the fire engine did not slow down when approaching the intersection.
Driver Distraction is a Main Cause of Accidents
Florida firefighters cite the use of cell phones while driving as a major cause of distraction that prevents drivers from heading heeding the warnings of emergency vehicles.
According to Florida law, if a driver does not move out of the way of an emergency vehicle, they can be fined up to $121 in some Florida counties. Citing drivers who do not move away from emergency vehicles is difficult, since first responders cannot risk the time to stop and cite the drivers.
To prevent accidents
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has cited the following tips to help prevent auto accidents and help speed the response time of emergency vehicles.
When you hear a siren:
- Slow down and look around to see where the vehicle is approaching. Do not immediately pull to the side because you may pull into the path of the emergency vehicle
- Emergency vehicles try to drive in the middle lane, so pulling over to the right side of the road is considered the safest course of action. Try to stay a minimum of one lane away from both moving and stopped emergency vehicles.
- Slow down. Florida law states that drivers must slow to 20 miles per hour or slower when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.
- Since more than one emergency vehicle may be responding, be sure that it is safe before proceeding.
- Be aware of your surroundings when driving. Limit all use of distracting devices such as cell phones or iPods.